Big Brother in all schools. Parents and teachers will not be able to object

Video and audio surveillance systems will be installed in all classrooms without the need for student, parent or teacher consent. The decision, which will be made through an Emergency Ordinance, has already sparked great controversy both among privacy and data protection experts and among Education specialists. The latter believe that “Big Brother” will not prevent and eradicate violence in schools. The parents, however, applaud the idea.

Placement of video cameras in classrooms, decided by GEO. Photo source: archive

Ligia Deca, the Minister of Education, stated in a press conference that schools will be able to have audio-video surveillance systems in the classrooms, without requiring the consent of parents or teachers, as the law currently states. Moreover, the audio-video cameras will also be installed outside the buildings, in the hallways, in the dining rooms, sports halls, halls of festivities, dormitories, boarding schools, school libraries or information centers. Where these systems exist, they will become operational. Where they do not exist, they will be acquired.

“I considered it necessary to modify the legislative framework, so that schools can decide to install audio-video surveillance systems, to ensure the protection of people and property, as well as as a measure to prevent acts of violence that may occur in the school space”the official stated, yesterday, in a press conference.

Ligia Deca said that the recordings cannot be used for the professional evaluation of teachers: “These audio-video recordings can only be used for the purpose of investigating cases or reports of violence, respectively cases aimed at the protection of assets. Schools cannot use audio-video recordings for the professional evaluation of teachers, and this prohibition is explicitly provided for in the law”. Moreover, not everyone will have access to the images, but only the people involved in the conflicts that are being investigated. A parent, for example, whose child has been assaulted by another or by a teacher will have to make a request to the management of the respective unit to view the images.

Data privacy expert: “The law does not comply with GDPR rules”

Daniela Cireașa, the president of the Association of Privacy and Data Protection Specialists, told “Adevărul” that this law violates GDPR rules. “It's for nothing that we talk about it as a privacy issue. They do whatever they want. They will probably amend Article 66 of the Pre-university Education Law in this sense. In the conditions in which the National Supervisory Authority also said that it is not right”, specified this.

The specialist explained that the installation of these surveillance systems should have been implemented in a completely different way. And by no means in all schools. “Some technical and organizational measures must be implemented, and at this moment the state education system does not have the necessary means, the necessary resources. When installing these systems, an impact assessment should be done data protection and a physical risk analysis. The latter involves assessors authorized by the police inspectorates who carry out physical risk analyzes starting from the risks in the respective area or the incidents that have occurred there over time. And they arrive at a list of measures that the beneficiary must implement in order to minimize the risks. If I'm in an area where there are usually acts of violence, I'll also put in a panic button and video surveillance system and burglar-proof windows. If I have no history and I'm in an area where nothing much has happened, where the risks are not high then the measures will be minimal“, explained Daniela Cireașa.

In order to work, the new law needs a well-prepared ground. “First, consideration will need to be given to the training of staff within the educational establishment who will have access to the images. They should be trained in what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do, where that data should go and where it should not go, it should be very clear who will have access to it and who will not, how how long that information is kept and who will manage it. Moreover, it must be clearly decided where these records can be viewed. I, for one, would in no way tap into the school principal's personal cell phone. Recordings should be saved on a secure device, including physical. That is, not everyone in the school should have access to it“.

The number of criminal cases will increase, but the problem will still not be solved

Even education specialists do not see this decision with good eyes. “That's what was missing: to brainwash them just like in Orwell's Animal Farm. That's exactly how this whole story is going to be. In the second second, the school will no longer matter, what is seen on the camera will matter. It will no longer matter what those children learn, but who suspects whom, who surprises whom, who sees whom, who gets in the way. They will pick each other's hair, they will be at each other's throats and the number of complaints and criminal cases will increase exponentially. Because that's not how the problem is solved.” is the opinion of the expert in Education policies Marian Staș.

A different approach is therefore needed to prevent acts of aggression, bullying and violence in schools. “Placing this surveillance system is not a solution for two reasons. School won't matter anymore. Education as such will no longer matter. And two: these measures will not solve the problem itself, but changing behaviors in the school. We are talking about a long process, it will not happen overnight. We are talking about other curricular architecture, other framework plans… these are the ones that would determine the change in behavior in the school. And another teaching career model, another teacher behavior and many, many more, not a thousand or a million more video cameras“, the expert also pointed out.

Opinions are divided, however. Iulian Cristache, the president of the Parents' Association welcomes the decision saying that he has been waiting for such a decision for a long time. He specified that “abuses in the classroom and in schools will decrease. I have been asking for this for a long time. Of course, it is absolutely necessary to have a procedure that takes into account the legislation in force. I'm sure there will be parents who object. Why? Easy to understand“. Iulian Cristache refers to the fact that many parents know they have problem children and it will not suit them when there is clear evidence of this.